When the Syracuse Orange added women’s ice hockey in 2008, Paul Flanagan faced the challenge of building a program from the ground up.
Now in his 14th year at the helm, it’s clear that he’s done a pretty good job.
The Orange won their 200th game in program history on Saturday, 4-3 over Lindenwood. It was also their sixth straight win to begin 2022.
That success didn’t come out of nowhere. Flanagan and his squad went through the same growing pains as most new college teams. In its inaugural season, SU lost its first six games and were just 2-11-3 in conference play. Since then, the program has grown to become a consistent competitor.
Under Flanagan, the team has made nine consecutive College Hockey America semifinals. The highlight of that stretch was the program’s lone CHA Championship in 2019. That victory led to SU’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to #1 Wisconsin in the first round. They came close to making it back last year but were defeated in the CHA finals by Robert Morris.
Before coming to ‘Cuse, Flanagan had already compiled a rich history in hockey at St. Lawrence University. He was captain of the men’s team during the 1979-80 season, and later an assistant coach from 1988 to 1999. He took over head coaching duties of their women’s team in 1999, leading them to five Frozen Fours in nine years. His tenure there was capped off by winning the 2000-01 National Championship.
This season, Syracuse has talent spread throughout the roster. Abby Moloughney, Sarah Marchand, and Lauren Bellefontaine are all in the conference Top 10 in points. Moloughney also leads CHA in power-play goals and is third in total goals scored. Goaltender Arielle DeSmet protects the net with an outstanding .935 save percentage.
The Orange also have some of the best special teams in the country. The team is 2nd in the nation in shorthanded goals, 4th in power play goals, and 8th in power play percentage.
This weekend’s series with Penn State could determine Syracuse’s seeding for another hopeful tournament run. The two squads are currently tied for first in the conference.
As for Flanagan, his goal remains the same: to coach a championship team. This year could be his best chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament - and back to the glories he had at St. Lawrence.